Located in southeast New Mexico, an enchanted Sierra Blanca Mountain oasis, Ruidoso was named by the Spanish Rio Ruidoso, meaning “noisy river.”
The Mescalero Apache first settled the area hundreds of years ago. About 400 of them organized the reservation over 100 years ago, governed by a tribal council of eight members with a president and vice-president. Learn more about the tribal history here, including Geronimo, Victorio, medicine woman Lozen, and Cochise.
Today, Ruidoso is a year-round mountain playground with rustic cabins, comfortable hotels, luxurious lodges, and resorts. You’ll enjoy horseback riding, hiking, camping, winter skiing amid scenic mountain views and alpine forests, plus first-class horse racing and casinos, historical museums, and sporting recreational areas.
We’ll start with things to do, then places to stay (including the many Ruidoso cabins), then places to eat.
Pro Tip: Download the Discover Ruidoso App for a list of events, things to do, places to visit, restaurants, campgrounds, cabins, hotels, resorts, sports, and more.
Things To Do In Ruidoso
This list covers a lot — there truly is a lot to do in and around this Land of Enchantment town.
Mescalero Apache Cultural Center And Museum
View vivid pictures of the Mescalero, Chiricahua, and Lipan Apache people, their clothing collections, tools, weapons, and beautiful baskets at the Mescalero Apache Cultural Center and Museum. See a video about the history, traditions, way of life, dance, and topics for group lectures.
Hubbard Museum Of The American West
Explore the history of early settlers and Native Americans when you view covered wagons, stagecoaches, Wild West artifacts, and the history of the horse. This affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute teaches about life in the West, plus the lives of the notorious western figures such as Pat Garrett, Butch Cassidy, and Billy The Kid.
Ruidoso Mural Tour
With over a dozen opportunities for Instagram selfies, tour Midtown’s public art murals provided by local artists and the Ruidoso Midtown Association. See the Village Buttery by Jeff Hayes, Noisy Water Winery by Lucas Aoki, Unique Boutique by artist Michael Fish, and 25th in Mid by Andrew Phipps, to mention a few.
Visit Midtown For Shopping And All Things Fun
Midtown is Ruidoso’s downtown village hub for dining, arts, shopping, wineries, and brewpubs. The Ruidoso Trading Post offers plenty of turquoise jewelry and more. Get a fruity boba drink or refreshing frozen yogurt at Chill Out By Simple Sugars from a little local girl who wanted to bring something sweet, fun, and colorful to her hometown. Stop for a wine tasting at the award-winning Noisy Water Winery, founded in 2009 by the Riddle Family. The Cork and Kettle Specialty Wine and Food Shop offers wine tastings, cappuccino, tea, pistachios, Chama honey, Los Poblanos lavender products, Red Rock Coffee, and many more specialty foods, pasta, salsas, jellies, jams, and chocolates. Café Rio, New Mexico’s best pizza, has served East Coast-style pizza since 1993, plus soups, salads, sandwiches, calzones, and desserts.
Ski Apache Winter And Summer
Ski Apache, located on the north ridge of the 12,002-foot Sierra Blanca peak, with 180 inches of annual snowfall, offers 55 runs and trails and 11 lifts, including the gondola to the top. During the summer, enjoy the gondola, zip tour, and mountain bike rentals.
Pro Tip: Often, there is snow at Ski Apache when Colorado is lacking.
Ruidoso Winter Park
Spend the day in a winter wonderland tubing down snowy wooded trails and hills or link a train of tubes for extra fun. See the slopes from a different angle on an excellent zip line adventure. The Kidz Korral hosts gentler slopes for beginners and little ones. Rent a VIP igloo for up to six people for the day, providing warmth from the chills, seating, hot cocoa, pizza, and s’mores kits.
Fort Stanton Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area
The Fort Stanton Snowy River Cave Conservation Area, created in 2009, protects the more than 31 miles of ancient caverns found beneath the Sierra Blancas. Many of the caves are closed to recreational caving to safeguard the many bat species living there. Visitors can explore some of the cave formations, camp in the beautiful scenic natural areas, hike on the many trails, cycle, or ride horses.
Fort Stanton Museum
Fort Stanton Museum tells a unique history of the building, which served as a military garrison, a tuberculosis hospital, a CCC camp during the depression, and a German internment camp during World War II.
Grindstone Lake Recreation Area And Trail System
Grindstone Lake offers a multi-use trail system, completed in 2014 by the International Mountain Biking Association. Peddle, hike, or ride horses along five trails totaling 18 miles. Fish the rainbow trout-stocked lake in a non-motorized boat only.
Pro Tip: Required fishing licenses and boat permits are available at the Dam House.
Completed in 1940 by the CCC Civilian Conservation Corps, Monjeau Lookout serves as a fire search tower in the Smokey Bear Ranger District within the Lincoln National Forest. A 12.4-mile trail with a 2,841-foot elevation gain provides impressive views and glimpses of wildlife like deer and even bears. See the forest refurbishing after a wildfire a few years ago.
Frequent Ruidoso Arts And Galleries
Mountain Arts Gallery & Framing represents more than 30 artists and specializes in framing, gifts, and pottery. I purchased the large Olive Wood Rustic Serving Platter. An award-winning art gallery, Adobe Fine Art offers world-class contemporary masters for paintings, jewelry, and sculpture. White Dove Gallery features unique one-of-a-kind jewelry, fine art glass, copper art, pottery, kachinas, plus Navajo original weavings and sand paintings.
Cowboy Cooking At Flying J Ranch
At Flying J Ranch, enjoy cowboy cooking chuckwagon style, western gunfights, music shows with western fiddle, guitar, and banjo picking, western swing, and family fun. When the dinner bell rings, line up for sliced beef or chicken in unique Flying J sauce, a baked potato, cowboy beans, homemade buttered biscuits, spice cake, and chunky applesauce served with cowboy coffee, iced tea, and lemonade.
Ruidoso River Trail
The 1.3-mile Ruidoso River Trail welcomes visitors at Two River Park and winds up to Rio Street and Eagle Drive. Enjoy the tranquility of the rushing water along with the sculpture park, benches, and places to exercise. Dogs on leashes are allowed.
Adventure Mountain Family Fun Center
Adventure Mountain Family Fun Center features a fun, family entertainment destination with bumper cars, arcade games, batting cages, and miniature golf. Enjoy mirror maze, kiddie go-karts, laser maze, glow golf, and a climbing rock wall.
Play Golf In Ruidoso
Play 18 holes over 5,952 yards with a par 71 at Crea Meadows, two miles from the center of Ruidoso. Three miles away, tee off at The Links at Sierra Blanca, 18 holes over 7,793 yards with a par 72. Inn of the Mountain Gods Golf Course offers 18 holes over 6,834 yards with a par 72. There are four more private 18 hole courses, plus one private nine-hole course at Innsbrook Village.
Frequent The Ruidoso Downs Racetrack
One of the nation’s premier quarter horse racing tracks, Ruidoso Downs, holds the All American Futurity, the richest quarter horse race in the country, with a purse exceeding $30 million — more significant than the Kentucky Derby purse. With new owners after the 2017 season, Ruidoso Downs has become the epicenter of quarter horse and thoroughbred racing in the nation, running from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.
With over 400 members, the two-story Ruidoso Jockey Club was created for true race fans to enjoy the excitement from premier facilities since 1954. You’ll find three full-service bars, a scratch kitchen providing daily specials, and friendly staff, a place where memberships pass down through the generations.
Play The Slots At Three Ruidoso Casinos
Nearby Mescalaro’s Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino offers a premier, full-service casino featuring the only live dealers in town. You’ll find gaming options, including blackjack, roulette, craps, a poker room, bingo, a wide variety of slot machines, and other table games.
Billy the Kid Casino, adjacent to Ruidoso Downs, boasts over 300 slots with rotating jackpots, membership awards, a restaurant, live music, and a gift shop.
Located on Highway 70 in Mescalero, Casino Apache Travel Center, a full-service truck stop and car wash, offers favorite games, from slots and video poker to blackjack, roulette, and three-card poker.
Ride Horses In Ruidoso
With plenty of options to ride horses in Ruidoso, visit Grindstone Stables Horseback Rides for guided trips through the forest above Grindstone Lake or a covered carriage ride through Midtown. Enjoy sleigh rides in the winter through the historic upper canyon.
The Riding Stables at Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort are open through October for ages eight and older.
There are dozens of backcountry trails throughout the Lincoln National Forest, ranging in elevation from 5,400 to 11,580 feet to ride your horse.
Best Hotels In Ruidoso
Looking for resort living? Ruidoso and the surrounding area have you covered.
The Inn Of The Mountain Gods Resort & Casino
The Inn Of The Mountain Gods Resort & Casino in beautiful Mescalero boasts luxurious rooms and suites with lake views, Las Vegas-style gaming with dealers and tables, plus thrilling slots and more. The resort activities will keep you busy: luxury spa services, upscale golf, Apache Eagle zip lining, fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Enjoy stand-up comedy and national concerts on site.
Ruidoso River Resort Condos
Ruidoso River Resort Condos are right on the river and close to Ski Apache and Cree Meadows Golf Course. You’ll find one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos, a community fire pit, gas grills, and a peaceful, rocky courtyard weaving through the property.
You’ll find many cabins in Ruidoso for rent that sleep two to a dozen or more located in town, along the river, or mountainside. Some are perfect for multigenerational trips; others offer travelers smaller, more serene escapes.
Next to Heaven, for instance, sleeps eight and has a spacious, vaulted family room awash with natural light and mountain views. This impressive cabin, set amid the rolling mountains, is less than two miles from the center of Ruidoso.
Winterfell is a cozy cabin in the Upper Canyon neighborhood and has a shaded porch any family would enjoy. It has a grill, a hot tub, and ample seating to enjoy your wooded surroundings. Be aware of the steep steps entering the property.
This tastefully designed one-bedroom cabin, meanwhile, is great for a couple’s getaway. Wildlife from deer to turkeys to hummingbirds weaves through the hilltop property and the adjacent Lincoln National Forest. Watch them from the hot tub if you’d like.
Best Restaurants In Ruidoso
Savor seven restaurants at Inn of the Mountain Gods. Wendell’s Steak and Seafood offers fine casual dining with a view. Seventy beers are available on tap at the Broken Arrow Tap House that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Voted “Best Lunch in Lincoln County” numerous times, The Village Buttery serves sandwiches, soups, salads, and quiche.
Pro Tip: Save room for the sticky caramel pecan cheesecake!
New Mexico should be on every travelers’ radar thanks to the variety of activities it offers as well as the beautiful scenery: